Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved nature and adventure, thanks to watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom weekly television show. I don’t watch much TV now, but on Saturday mornings there are three nature shows I enjoy. Just like when I was young, they make me feel like I’m traveling to places where I’ll never leave my footprint.
My husband, Mel, and I recently took a trip to Minden, Nebraska. It’s a charming town known for its Pioneer Village, which opened in 1953. Harold Warp, a Chicago manufacturer who was originally from Minden, built it to house his ever-growing collection of stuff, which showcases life throughout the years in this country. It was fun seeing the museum and walking the grounds once again, but that’s not specifically why we went to Minden.
There’s a small corridor in that part of Nebraska where more than 80 percent of the world’s sandhill crane population passes through during its annual migration north. Now that’s a sight to behold. If I had a bucket list, I would write seeing the cranes on it and then check it off.
The cranes stay about a month to rest and refuel. They eat the leftover grain in crop fields, gaining about 10 percent of their body weight. They socialize and also do some courting. Cranes mate for life. I wonder if the female crane organizes the suitcases for that long trip from Mexico, Texas or New Mexico to their destination in Canada, Alaska, or Siberia.
I imagine the husband crane saying to his wife, “Honey, don’t forget to pack the binoculars. I want to watch some of those Nebraskans this time through. They are an interesting species.”
We have binoculars of our own, which help us to see the cranes close up. It’s interesting how they stand in the fields a ways from the road. They’re in a perfectly straight row across for a long distance and also several cranes back in depth. Watching them you see many cranes with heads bent over, feeding. Then there’s one crane standing straight up, looking around. Glance farther down the line and there’s another one standing at full attention, looking around. And another. And another.
All the way down the line there are the sentry cranes. So while the others are bent over eating, the sentries are watching for danger. They take their duties seriously. Never once do they bend over and grab a snack.
God put these instincts into these birds. When he created them, he made them to seek out just the right climate in which to live. He told them when to leave one area and travel thousands of miles to another. He guided them through Nebraska’s Platte River Valley.
He told them when to lift off at night and roost in the waters of the Platte River, a safe place. He gave them this time of rest and nourishment. This time to chatter with one another, which is the cutest sound. I never knew what I was missing until I heard thousands of cranes talking at once. It’s a sound unlike anything I’ve heard before.
I never knew what I was missing until I experienced twilight lift-off from the fields. As the sun begins to set, the cranes lift off the ground. Their long necks stick way out, as if they’re pointing the way for the slow pokes. Their long legs comically stick out the other direction. I think every time God sees those long legs, he smiles.
Our Heavenly Father has created instincts in us as well. We are born with the innate need to be in a relationship with him. When we do not meet this need, we turn to the things to fill that vacuum. But they never work. We can try to worship other things and other idols, but we’ll never be satisfied. Like the cranes, we have a built-in need for nourishment to survive. We need to be in a relationship with the Lord. We need to feed on the Word of God to thrive and to grow. We need to be around other believers to stay on the straight and narrow path that leads to eternal life.
We are created to be helpers for one another. To be sentries, in a way. Sometimes we all get lost. If we see a brother or sister struggling, we’re called to walk beside them and to be a friend. To point the way back to Jesus. We can do that for one another no matter where we live, whether that’s in Nebraska’s Platte River Valley, in the middle of Siberia, or anywhere else. We just have to follow our God-given instinct and fly right.